Monday, 25 February 2013

Stone circles and monuments - your favourite places?

I have visited several stone circles, and in the last few years I have become ever more interested in them. The first stone monument I ever remember visiting was Stone Henge, back on a family holiday. Since then, I have visited several others. I find them really atmospheric and sometimes eerie places to be, and generally just fascinating. They always make me think.

My favourite is still the Ring o Brodgar at Stenness on mainland Orkney, and someday I want to return and take some photographs. Can you believe it, I don't have any! I visited this stunning place a couple of times when I was in my late teens and not so into photography and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested. The circle at Stenness has 27 standing stones, and the circle is the same size as Avebury's two inner rings.

That brings me nicely on to Avebury, the site of the oldest stone circle in the world, and a designated World Heritage Site. It is only around 20 miles from Stonehenge and is huge. I spent an afternoon in and around the circle in 2009, it was a really peaceful day and very interesting. I was intrigued by the trees on the site, which had amazing roots and were clearly a special place for many others.

The stones at Avebury are very impressive. This is a stone from one of the two inner circles.

I really liked the textures on the stones themselves. Over the years they have aged and weathered and created interesting patterns and colours.

From Avebury to Arbor Low, in the Peak District. The day I visited in 2010, it was particularly quiet and in fact only my friend and I were there for most of the time. It was wonderfully peaceful. This stone circle is on a private farm, but the landowner allows access. The stones at Arbor Low are mostly laying down.

I put together some panorama's of the circle at Arbor Low. If you click on these photos you can see them in larger format in my Flickr photostream.

Again the individual stones are very interesting and frequently topped by sheep, which freely wander around the site.

The last stone circle for this blog is The Cockpit, which sits on the hillside above Ullswater in The Lake District. Again I was very lucky to visit on a beautiful day, the sky was blue, and the clouds lined up perfectly for this shot. Isn't it amazing how sometimes you can be in just the right place at the right time?

You can see my "Stone Circles" set on Flickr here

I'd welcome hearing from anyone who enjoys visiting stone circles and monuments with suggestions of places to visit in the UK and Ireland, as I learn more about them.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A dose of cute...

Last weekend I got to play with a friend's little labrador puppy, Freja. I don't think there's much I need to say about this one, it's just one big dose of cute. So I hope you like it.

Hello, what's all this then....

That thing you're pointing at me is clicking!

Whatever, I'm just going to have a snooze...

Almost time to go out and play


Is this cute enough?

Manners are important, even at 8 weeks old

Monday, 4 February 2013

A rare shot goes global...

Over the last few weeks, the night sky has been beautiful here in Norfolk.

January is a good time for star gazing, and I spent a lot of time looking up and picking out the different star constellations. Later on in the month after several days of being snowed in, I finally made it back into into the office. Late afternoon I noticed the gorgeous moon as I looked up from my top floor desk. I decided it was about time I had a go at photographing it, and willed the sky to stay clear until I made it home.

Luckily it did, and I took this shot on 24th January using a 50-500mm Sigma lens. Even with this mighty zoom, I had to crop the shot quite a bit, but I was amazed at the details that could be seen on the surface of the moon.

Three nights later, and in slightly different circumstances, I found myself outside again, this time looking at the ground as the snow melt combined with a large amount of rain had caused the river running past our house to burst it's banks. During Sunday evening we were keeping half hour checks on the river levels as the water crept slowly up the garden and the front driveway. Whilst outside I noticed the reflection of the now full moon on the newly created front garden lake (formerly a pond).

Looking up, it was beautiful and I trudged in over the soggy ground to get the camera again and set up my tripod. After all, I might as well do something fun to take my mind off the potential danger to life and property, right? After a few shots I experimented with the settings, with half an eye on the sky. I noticed something creeping into the right hand side of my vision and realised it was a plane about to cross right in front of the moon. I lunged for the shutter release and hoped for the best as the plane flew right across my viewfinder leaving a dark contrail behind. Such was the speed of it, I managed two frames. Cue quite a lot of excitement and also nervousness as I realised I had slowed down my shutter speed and that I was relying on the lens focusing properly and me not wobbling things about too much to capture anything.

Luckily for me, I got a just about useable shot out of it.

A week later and this is proving my most popular photo to date. It has had interest from national and international media and comments from around the world. I have even discovered what flight it was with the help of a friend, who established it was a Boeing 737, flight SAS7416, from Tenerife to Trondheim in Norway. The plane was travelling at approximately 580mph when I photographed it, so I'm amazed it came out at all.

For those camera minded people amongst you, this was shot at ISO500, f11 and shutter of 1/160. I wonder how much clearer it would have been at my previous setting of f9 and 1/250? I'll never know.

If you are interested in using this photo, then please do get in touch.

This photo appears in my Flickr "100 most interesting shots", so if you are interested in my most interesting shots according to Flickr please take a moment to view the slideshow.